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Author Topic: Fake Veterans  (Read 4606 times)


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« on: 9 December 2009, 19:57:17 »


Richard Strandlof

Richard Strandlof said he survived the 9/11 attacks on the Pentagon. He said he survived again when a roadside bomb went off in Iraq, killing four fellow Marines. He'd point to his head and tell people he had a metal plate, collateral damage from the explosion.

None of it was true. On Friday, the FBI arrested him on the rare charge of "stolen valor."

Strandlof, 32, was held "for false claims about receipt of military decorations or medals," an FBI news release said. Charges had been filed in Denver, Colorado, the week before, the bureau said.

"The penalty for his crime is up to one year incarceration and a $100,000 fine," it said.

Before his deception was revealed, crowds ate up his story. He canvassed Colorado appearing at the sides of politicians. Inspiring and seemingly authentic, he spoke on behalf of veterans at the state Capitol.

He formed a group called the Colorado Veterans Alliance.

The whole thing was a lie, he admitted to CNN's Anderson Cooper earlier this year. Video Watch Strandlof discuss case in June. »

He wasn't at the Pentagon. He was never a Marine. He never served his country. He never graduated from the Naval Academy. He claimed his real name was Rick Duncan.

Where was he on 9/11, the day he said he witnessed heroism firsthand?

"I was in San Jose, California, watching it in horror on TV with a few other people," Strandlof told CNN.

He was at a homeless shelter at the time.

Strandlof denies being a pathological liar. He says he suffered from "some severely underdiagnosed mental illness" and he got caught up in the moment around "people who are passionate and loved what they did."

He told CNN he had put on a "production, which I'm sorry for."

"Hopefully the people that I hurt can in some way gain closure from that, and I myself don't know what I can do, short of leaving them alone and not being in their lives, to make that happen," Strandlof said.

He said he's not sure exactly how he's hurt people. "It's not for me to say, and time will tell," he said.

Hal Bidlack, a former Air Force lieutenant colonel, is one of those people. He ran for Congress as a Democrat and had Strandlof appear with him. Bidlack -- who lost to incumbent Republican Doug Lamborn -- isn't too happy.

"Once one lie fell apart, the whole series of things ... just cascaded into an ocean of lies," he said.

Bidlack was at the Pentagon when it came under attack on September 11, 2001. He now realizes that Strandlof stole portions of his own story.

"Now that we know he's a lying fraud," Bidlack said, "I think he was just parroting my own story back to me."

"There are an awful lot of things that he kept straight to try to fool an awful lot of people for an awful long time."

Doug Sterner has catalogued hundreds of people claiming to be military veterans who never served in the military. He says it's typical for those perpetuating the hoaxes to claim mental illness.

"I don't buy that," Sterner said. "What he was doing was looking for a cause to promote himself. I see this repeatedly. I've had a hundred cases just this year like Rick Strandlof's. ... What they're doing is building a kingdom of self and feeding their own ego."

Sterner has pushed for a federal database listing the names and citations of all decorated military veterans to help put an end to such cases. He said Strandlof has robbed true veterans of their veracity.

"Doing good does not take away from the bad that he did," he said. "Because of Rick Strandlof, the next global war on terrorism veteran that speaks in a school or talks to the media or gets involved in politics is going to be questioned."

Ryan Gallucci, a spokesman for AMVETS, agreed.

"Strandlof's actions dishonor the actual sacrifices of veterans," he told CNN Monday.

"Second, by commissioning his own advocacy group, Strandlof diverted philanthropy dollars for legitimate causes within the veterans community," Gallucci said.

"Personally, it just sickens me," Gallucci added. "As a veteran of the war in Iraq, it's unfathomable that someone would propagate such a lie at a time when American men and women are actually putting their lives on the line, and American families are coping with the loss of those who have made the ultimate sacrifice."

According to the Denver Post, Strandlof came to authorities' attention first in 1997, when he was sentenced to five years on forgery and bad-check charges.

The FBI was investigating him for fraud when he spoke to CNN -- a charge he denied.

"We did not take money to use on non-veterans projects. I did not enrich myself on this. I did not gain any money from this," he said.

He has not been charged with fraud.

That's not the point, said Sterner. "The one thing he robbed from every veteran that comes out now is credibility."



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« Reply #1 on: 9 December 2009, 20:00:10 »


Jesse MacBeth

Jesse MacBeth never was an Army Ranger, much less a corporal, never received a Purple Heart for wounds inflicted by a foreign foe, and neither saw nor participated in war crimes with fellow U.S. soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan, claims for which he became a poster boy for the anti-war movement.

So, there was likely no way the 23-year-old Tacoma man suffered post-traumatic stress disorder from the horrors of war and other injuries.

MacBeth was sentenced Friday to five months in jail and three years' probation for falsifying a Department of Veterans Affairs claim and an Army discharge record.

At a sentencing hearing before U.S. District Court Judge Robert Lasnik on Friday, MacBeth's federal public defender, Jay Stansell, said that if MacBeth didn't have PTSD from a war, he had mental health problems and grew up in a harsh environment, homeless on the streets, surviving by seizing whatever angle or positive feedback he could get.

"I know he lived a war as a child," Stansell said.

Lasnik, weighing a standard sentencing range of between two and eight months for falsifying a VA claim and an Army discharge record, also ordered MacBeth to seek help for mental health problems, especially as they related to committing domestic violence.

MacBeth's is the latest case to be sentenced under "Operation Stolen Valor," which uses the new Stolen Valor Act to go after people posing as veterans, who often festoon themselves with awards and invent tales of long-term injuries, often to fraudulently acquire veterans benefits.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Ron Friedman said the sentence is often linked to how much money a fake veteran bilks from the government, and MacBeth was caught before he took any.

Friedman said the government doesn't fully understand what MacBeth's motivations were. His actions included an effort to document PTSD, Friedman said, "but they were also symptomatic of something else."

Under a plea agreement in May, MacBeth admitted guilt to falsifying a claim for veterans compensation benefits and altering his military discharge record, which was issued after he washed out of Army boot camp after 44 days in 2003.

A thin man who sat quietly looking down through most of the hearing, MacBeth apologized for snookering anti-war groups with his claims of killing unarmed, helpless civilians in Iraq -- which were translated into Arabic and posted on the Internet -- and also to U.S. soldiers whom he defamed.

MacBeth said he felt bad for what he did.

"I'm sorry not only for lying about everything and discrediting anti-war groups, but also for defaming the real heroes, the soldiers out there sacrificing for their country," MacBeth said. "I was trying to pull a fast one, to make money to get off the streets."

MacBeth fooled peace groups and alternative media to become something of an anti-war star over the past four years.

He claimed he witnessed and participated in war crimes in Iraq with other Rangers, slaughtering hundreds of unarmed men, women and children.

In a widely distributed Internet video translated into Arabic, Macbeth said. "We would burn their bodies ... hang their bodies from the rafters in the mosque."

Lasnik noted that the case operated in two arenas, one in the courtroom where he was sentenced specifically for the crime of falsifying records, and another "in the blogosphere and elsewhere where he became a symbol."

"Too many people with a political agenda grabbed ahold of Mr. MacBeth's story and ran with it because they wanted to believe it. Any sober look should have lead people to believe it was all a made-up rant," Lasnik said.

"They tried to make him a poster boy for their point of view, and I think that is outrageous," Lasnik said.

Yet, while MacBeth's actions embarrassed the anti-war movement, it cannot be argued, as other quarters of the blogosphere assert, "that all reports of abuse by Americans in Iraq are incorrect," Lasnik cautioned. The military justice system has brought to light and dealt with such reports, he said.

Operation Stolen Valor is a year-old federal law enforcement effort that has resulted in a dozen cases under investigation in the Pacific Northwest, with fraud totals of more than $1.4 million. Eight cases have been filed and are in various stages of prosecution.

The act allows authorities to pursue phonies they previously could not touch. In the past, authorities rarely could act unless they caught someone wearing an award.

"As a Vietnam veteran and the father of a decorated Army officer currently serving, I feel very keenly the damage done by Jesse Macbeth and these other fakes," U.S. Attorney Jeff Sullivan said.


The Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General operates a confidential public hot line to report crimes involving the VA or its programs. Call 800-488-8244, send a fax to 202-565-7936, e-mail vaoighotline@va.gov or write to VA OIG hot line, P.O. Box 50410, Washington, D.C., 20091-0410.

Learn more about the case against Jesse MacBeth at goto.seattlepi.com/r1006.



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« Reply #2 on: 9 December 2009, 20:10:40 »


Hunt on in U.K. for Fake Veteran Who Wore 17 Medals at Parade

Efforts are underway in the U.K. to identify a man who joined in one of the country's largest Remembrance Day parades wearing 21 medals and badges military experts say it would been impossible for one man to have been awarded.

Outside of the capital London the largest Remembrance Day Parade in England is, as the Telegraph reports, held in the West Midlands town of Bedworth.
Remembrance Day, also known as Poppy Day and Armistice Day, is held each year on November 11, the same date as Veterans Day in the U.S., to honor the memory of those who gave their lives in times of war and it is observed throughout the Commonwealth of Nations.
This year the parade in Bedworth, in which some 600 veterans took part, was joined by a man wearing a beige SAS (Special Air Service) beret and no less than 21 military medals and badges.
The Daily Mail carries a picture of the currently unidentified man, who was confronted by a parade organizer and left the parade after admitting he was not the hero he purported to be, and a guide to the two rows of medals he was wearing.

Martin Harrison, a member of the the Bedworth Armistice Day Parade committee, noted that the man gave himself away by wearing his medals in two rows, rather than one long row overlapping.

As for the medals themselves, in addition to the Distinguished Service Order and Military Cross, the parade's unwelcome participant wore medals from the Second World War, Korea, the Falklands and the first Gulf War. In addition there was a foreign medal and some awards were those given to officers, others were awards given to privates.
Mr Harrison said that had the man now being described as a "cowardly Walter Mitty'', and liable to criminal prosecution under the Army Act 1955, won the number of gallantry awards the medals on his chest suggested he had he would have received the Victoria Cross.
Amongst those angered by the unnamed man currently being sought by genuine veterans, it is thought that the seemingly shameless marcher purchased his medals online or in antique shops, is 82-year-old Jesse Owen, a marshal at the Bedworth parade who served in the Royal Marines from 1945 through 1957. Mr Owen, recipient of a UN medal and Korean Veterans medal, said:

There are men and women on that parade that went through hell. 'This year we had four families who came to remember their husbands and sons and the largest contingent of those wonderful ladies the war widows. A man like this brings disrespect and disgrace on the whole act of remembrance

The four families to which Mr Owen refers would be those from the county of Warwickshire, where the town of Bedworth can be found, who have lost family members in Afghanistan, the Sun confirming that wreaths were laid at the parade in honor of the four members of the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers.
In addition the Sun tells of how John McInerney, a 65-year-old man from Hull, a city in Northern England, had at some stage worn a Para beret whilst claiming to be a hero from the Falklands conflict. Furthermore, in May 2008, the Sun reported on John Pierce, a 51-year-old man from Cornwall in Southwestern England with no military service behind him, who took part in Remembrance Day parades, saying he was a former paratrooper and member of the SAS.
The problem of fake heroes is not confined to the U.K., with Digital Journal's Michael Bearak reporting on December 4 how a website has been created in the U.S. by the veteran's organization AMVETS in order to expose people who lie about their sometimes non-existent military service.

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